23 September 2017 Register to receive our free newsletter by email each week
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Africa Analysis
Student funding must be opened to public scrutiny
South Africa’s government is planning a major overhaul of its student funding system. This comes in the wake of protests at universities that saw students successfully freeze fee hikes for the 2016 academic year. But there are hurdles to equitable student funding that can only be overcome if the student loans system is subject to public scrutiny.
How an Africa-wide science funding gap can be closed
The idea that Africa’s future depends critically on science, technology and innovation is embodied in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The continent starts at a disadvantage but there are grounds for optimism. Progress will cost billions – but the money is there and the challenge is to invest it in science innovation and technology for development.
Challenges to doctoral education in Africa
As the knowledge economy in Africa grows, so too will the need for more PhD graduates. New methods of teaching and research will be required along with supportive policies, regular assessments to ensure PhD outcomes match skills needs and greater support for research universities.
Rwanda takes long view to invest in African science
The Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering 2016 that took place in Senegal last month brought together African and global leaders from science, industry, civil society and government. The aim was to create “a unified African scientific identity integrated into the global scientific community and to inspire talented young people to pursue science”.
Huge gap between academics’ real and scholarly selves
African scholarship on Africa is operating at only a fraction of its true potential. It is hampered by the preferences, policies and politics of the Western academy. There are three reasons for this assertion – the poor state of knowledge about African economics and politics; the structure of academic rewards and careers; and ‘Occidentalism’ in theory and policy.
Harmonising African research grant administration
A nascent initiative to create an African grant management standard could help institutions improve administration practices, making them more attractive to donors in turn. But the initiative will only fulfil this promise if African researchers engage with its design to make sure it addresses their problems.
'Quality assurance' must be reimagined at universities
Quality assurance definitely has a role to play at Ethiopia’s universities. But this role will only be truly positive if programmes are modified to take academic considerations into account. They must also become more flexible about collecting essential data at an individual level rather than just focusing on the institutional level.
Reflections on new government cost-cutting measures
Last October Dr John Pombe Magufuli became Tanzania’s new president. His slogan is Hapa Kazi tu, which means “It is only work that counts here”. Magufuli has rapidly become a continental icon, and the hash tag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo has been trending for months. His approach has been to cut lavish public spending and redirect the money to development – and universities have not escaped.
China-Africa – Higher education gains
Relations with China have revived Africa’s prospects in diverse ways, with investment, trade and development activities that have helped the continent achieve economic growth of 4.5% in 2015. An increasing focus on higher education and skills training was highlighted at the second summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
Still ‘publish or perish' under research funding policy
South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training has approved a revised version of a contentious 2003 research funding policy. The Research Outputs Policy 2015 comes into effect in January. It has been welcomed by academics as having the potential to introduce considerable changes in how research output funds are awarded. But will the apparently ‘new’ policy actually just be more of the same?
Engineering graduates can help Africa to meet its SDGs
Engineers will play a vital role in meeting the challenges laid out by the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals. But there is a long road ahead for engineering in Africa, which needs at least a tenfold increase in relevant skills. To do this, it must dramatically raise the number of people who make it from the first year of an engineering degree to graduation.
Building nations, connecting cultures – The role of HE
Universities are the anchors, shapers and innovators of nations. Universities also provide the mechanisms for building and rebuilding nations. During the independence period, African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah believed that higher education would be critical to development and growth.
How universities are governed is the biggest challenge
Stories emerging about black students’ experiences in South African universities are nothing short of tragic. Higher education needs to get to grips with transformation. There is no silver bullet, but rethinking how our universities are governed must be central to our efforts.
The blunder of ranking African universities
The Times Higher Education, one of the publishers of global university rankings, recently co-hosted an Africa Universities Summit titled “Moving Africa’s Universities Forward: Building a shared global legacy”. Disappointingly, this took place in the absence of critical African players, despite indicating that the summit included a consultation on regional university rankings.
Investing in peer review to strengthen African science
Strengthening African scientists’ capacity to conduct credible peer review would be one small step to improving the quality of the continent’s science and building the skills of its scientists. Both are key to helping Africa develop its own research agenda.
When and how science spending leads to social returns
The rapid expansion of government funding for science in South Africa is perhaps surprising given the present climate of spending cutbacks amid urgent social priorities. Funding for public science in South Africa has increased by 71% in five years. It will reach R7.6 billion in 2015-16.
Facing hard challenges – A tale of two universities
The old University of Botswana and the new Botswana International University of Science and Technology, both public institutions, have been experiencing a time of turmoil. At one university the vice-chancellor has faced challenges. The other’s leader resigned after only 17 months and left the country.
How citizen scientists classified millions of Serengeti photos
In Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, more than 200 hidden cameras are snapping photos day and night, capturing the secret lives of the Serengeti’s most elusive animals. When we found ourselves with even more pictures than the 1.6 million wildebeest and zebra that take part in the annual migration, we turned to citizen scientists to work through the images and extract the valuable information they contain.
The opportunity to pursue higher education
The recent news that thousands of would-be students had withdrawn from the University of Zambia where they were accepted to pursue studies because they could not get government bursaries is disgraceful.
Tuning higher education as an engine for innovation
When Nigeria's Dangote Group advertised for 100 truck driver jobs in 2012, six PhDs, 704 masters and more than 8,460 bachelor degree holders were among the 13,000 applicants. Why were the applicants not employed in careers they trained for? We argue that universities are not imparting the knowledge and skills required by Africa’s economies or the world.
Africa’s three key science and research issues of 2013
At this time of year, it is always good to take a step back and reflect on the past 12 months. Where are we now, compared to a year ago? What does the future hold? There are three developments of significance for African science and research – a new continental plan for science, the first IBM laboratory in Africa and the downturn in global health research funding.
University-to-jobs transition and youth unemployment
The International Labour Organisation’s Global Employment Trends 2013 estimated the global youth unemployment rate last year at 12.6%, representing 73.8 million young people without jobs. The highest rates are recorded in the Middle East and North Africa.
Science advisory body needs resources
Will the innovation council created to advise African nations on science – and comprising prominent academics, industry representatives and policy-makers – have enough funding? It would be a great pity if the council ended up as a glorified prize-giving committee.
Donors should focus on national research funds
Finding reliable sources of funding has been a perennial problem for African researchers. A long-term lack of interest in university research means that few countries have substantial national research grants open to scientists.
Fragmented science system needs a dedicated ministry
A paralysed science system means that Uganda's desire to fund a landmark project out of its own coffers could backfire. A science ministry is needed to tackle fragmentation of research between government departments that is damaging the country’s entire science system.